Cruising the Rhône requires planning. The time between the viable mooring options is often measured in hours. It is quite possible, indeed it is even likely, that the when you reach a mooring you’ll find that it is full.
With Wanderlust’s bow thruster out, the reasonable mooring options were further reduced, as tight maneuvers in confined ports were not possible. Our plan was to start earlier than normal and then after a couple of hours of cruising stop at the first available spot. There was always a Plan A and a Plan B.
If the initial options did not work, and it was after six in the afternoon, the “Plan C” was to moor at the waiting pontoon at the locks with permission from the keeper. Waiting pontoons for us were a last option. Even then, there was no guarantee we find space available for Wanderlust above of below the locks.
On this day the pontoon at la Roche-de-Glun was Plan B. We would have preferred to moor in Tournon-sur-Rhône, eight klicks upstream, but the small port was silted in after recent floods. When we neared Glun we saw a spot available at the pontoon on a spur of the river. The marked channel to get to the mooring was narrow. Nevertheless it looked doable though marginal, even without Wanderlust’s thruster.
As we turned off of the through navigation channel onto the spur of the river we discovered that the current was unexpectedly strong. Still we managed to spin Wanderlust into the flow in a narrow channel defined by buoys on the right and the bank and pontoon on the left. With her bow angled to the shore the current ferried Wanderlust towards the pontoon as we balanced the movement with thrust from the propeller. When the bow was in range of the pontoon Becky tossed the rope towards the cleat to set a spring that we could extend out as needed to let Wanderlust’s stern fit in the tight mooring space.
Now the problems began. A watching boater on the pontoon took the rope. Rather than looping the rope over the cleat on the pontoon, the boater started hauling Wanderlust’s bow hard to the pontoon.
Becky shouted repeatedly in two languages, but the boater would not give up the rope. He continued to pull hard at Wanderlust’s bow.
This was a problem. We needed to move forward to clear the small sailboats moored behind us but the boater had Wanderlust’s forward progress stopped. If the bow thruster was working I could have held Wanderlust is a sideslip while Becky negotiated with the rope holder. But the thruster did not work and there were limited maneuvering options. If I turned the wheel to starboard, the bow would come to the pontoon hard. This might have been our best choice but there was significant risk of damaging the pontoon. If I turned to port, Wanderlust’s stern would collide with the sailboats whose owners were watching intently. I split the difference trying to drive forward hard with the rudder straight hard hoping that the spring line, which I couldn’t see, was long enough or would be extended. It wasn’t. With the increased the throttle the stern inevitably came into the sailboats with a crash.
At this point Becky had finally rested the spring line from the boater on the pontoon. She let out the rope and we slipped easily forward onto the pontoon and tied up. There was plenty of room.
The boater at the front who took our line disappeared back onto his boat, satisfied that he kept us five meters from the back of his cruiser.
The sailboat owners behind us were very upset. We came in too fast, I gathered from their rapid French. They had not seen what was happening at the bow and were judging Wanderlust’s speed from the water pushed up by the prop when the power was applied at the last moment. The boaters didn’t realize that we would have smoothly docked in the absence of intervention by the boater at the bow.
In the end there was only small damage done. A cleat was broken on a sailboat.
“Désolé,” I said to the sailboat owners repeatedly. Saying sorry didn’t help much. They were still upset.
Eventually the sailboat owners calmed down slightly. Becky offered twenty Euros to pay for the broken part. The money was initially refused but eventually taken.
It became clear later what the boater at the bow was trying to do. He wanted to stop us from going forward because he was saving a place for his dinghy. In the end there was enough room for four dinghies side by side between the boats. There would have been plenty of space if he just let us moor on our own.
I remained miffed.
Becky and I were well aware of the possibility that well meaning shore standers could seize a rope and wreak havoc. Boaters, especially hire boaters, are particularly prone to doing this. (It is an odd phenomenon when boaters who have a week of experience feel the need to instruct a crew of another boat with obviously much more experience on how to handle their own boat.) Some onshore boaters are confident that they are doing the right thing, no matter what they are told. But what might work with a light boat does not always work with a heavy barge. And often those standing on shore may not understand the crew’s planned maneuver or all of the space constraints. We find this often when we go to set mooring springs, as those on shore don’t understand the plan or the technique. Thus we have learned to be careful to keep the ropes in our control in these mooring situations. But unfortunately there are times, like this day, when someone on shore has other ideas and doesn’t listen. Becky could not have been clearer. In the end, I doubt the boater at the bow had a clue as to what he had done.
The mooring incident colored my enjoyment of an otherwise pleasant town. La Roche-de-Glun has a couple of interesting looking restaurants. The commune is on an island mostly cut off from through road traffic and is quiet. Gigi enjoyed the large green space near the pontoon. It would have been a nice place to spend a day or two, if my attitude hadn’t been tweaked by our arrival.
Wanderlust traveled from Ampuis to La Roche-de-Glun on the 10th of August 2017. Her engine ran for 6.4 hours has she traveled the 64 kilometers and two locks.
Clicking on this link this link will bring up a rough map of the route.